Chapter 13 - Cost Breakdown and Budget

Part 1

Story

Things turned out just the way Carl Rogers has secretly feared. The heated discussions about the sequence of the remaining five work packages continues at the next meeting. Carl could intervene and make the decision by himself, after all he has the necessary authority to do it as a project manager. But he knows that if he did that, he'd lose the confidence of the team members who disagree with whatever decision he makes.

He decides to intervene in the discussion; not to make a decision, but to make a suggestion. After all, he promised to bring the appropriate tools so that they could solve the problem without direct guidance. He gives each team member a voting card. Then he asks them to write, legible, the numbers zero and one on each side of the card.

He explains the motto that applied to the voting procedure: "All votes are equal at our meetings! There are no hierarchies. Do you know that people often disagree because they are thinking on different levels or simply because an issue is too complex?" As he talks, he writes the five critical work packages in a list on the flip chart. Above them, he writes:

Which is more urgent?

"This question will help us to solve the core problem of work package sequence assignment. We're going to look at the work packages in pairs and ask the question at the top of the flip chart. We've already discussed the whole thing in detail, so I assume that we've heard all the facts and understood the essence of everyone's opinions. OK, let's vote! Which of these two work packages is more urgent in terms of time? WP1 or WP2? If you think WP1 has to be completed first, please show me the side of your voting card with the number one. If you think WP2 should be completed first, show me the zero."

There are five votes for WP1 (one) and seven for WP2 (zero). Carl Rogers continues the voting procedure, letting his team weigh up all work packages in pairs. He writes the number of votes after each work package on the flip chart, which itself provides a more or less clear sequence. The work packages at the top, WP1 and WP5, get 28 votes each.

"What now?" snaps Chris Feldmann. "Well, we have several options available to us", says Dr. Rogers. "First of all, we can check whether these two work packages can be implemented concurrently. If they can, we'll simply start them at the same time and follow up with WP4, 2 and 3."

"No", says Chris Feldmann, "That won't work!"

"OK, then let's compare the votes in the direct comparison of these two work packages. It's a clear yes for WP1 because it received eight votes as compared with only four votes for WP5. That's why I suggest that we close the discussion on the five work packages now and integrate them in the network diagram in the sequence that we've just determined." All team members agree to the sequence on the flip chart which is also called relevance matrix.

Chris Feldmann speaks up again. "I'd like to reiterate the proposal that I made at our last meeting about entering the activities in the new software tool." Dr. Rogers took advantage of the time between the meetings to talk to the people in the PM office. He invited Harry Anson, a specialist for the software tool, to come along to the workshop. Harry Anson gives a brief presentation of the software and some detailed information about the capabilities of the system.

There are 128 work packages in the WBS, each comprising approximately 25 activities. This will produce a process schedule, a so-called network diagram, with approximately 3,200 activities. "I think the software can cope with that", says Harry Anson, "So you have the IT department's OK to use the software for the project."

"That may be true, but the controlling department would like to make a couple of points that I think are important and perhaps even crucial", adds Grace Holmes. "First of all, these activities have to be entered in the software tool and the system has to be regularly updated. That's going to take a lot of time and we'd probably have to assign one person to doing it on a full-time basis."

"It all makes sense to me, but what are we going to do with highly sensitive work packages? Do we really want to work without such a fantastic tool?" Chris Feldmann points out. He still thinks his arguments brought up at the last meeting are really good and he isn’t going to be deterred by Grace's opposition.